How I Created Holidays Around the World
By Kori Czuy
An ESL Professional, with 8 years’ experience teaching, consulting and adventuring in over 50 countries worldwide
The repetitive jingle of a popular Christmas tune, stirred me from my festive slumber. It did not evoke feelings of excitement nor joy at this ungodly early hour, but it was its mechanical, eerily creepy feel that got my heart pumping as it would during a psychological horror film. I see it, a ratty robotic Santa Claus circa 1965, dancing un-melodically while fighting with a dirty sock to advance another 2cm. It must be CHRISTMAS!!! I threw on my Christmas sweater complete with proper bells, 3-D presents with bows and miniature plastic dinosaurs.
Holidays can be difficult when working overseas, especially Christmas. I know I tend to miss the strange traditions from home, such as my sister playing the Santa prank on me every Christmas; hence the horror from the introduction. Celebrating a major holiday away from your home country, several thousand kilometres away, can be exciting, but remember, it can never be the same.
I like to intertwine my traditions with those from the country I am living in (if there are any). Everyone is usually interested in all the details of the English teacher’s traditional holiday back home, but also be open to their traditions.
– In Japan, I managed to find several miniature Christmas trees, and decorations, and had my local friends help me decorate while nibbling on mochi (rice cakes). This made that day at their Winter festival. As in Japan, Christmas is a holiday dedicated to date night and The Colonel from KFC. My students enjoyed my imported Boney M Christmas album, and a different take on their December 25th.
– Also in Japan: for Halloween we carved pumpkins with the kids in English club, but later the locals decorated their cars with their finished pieces!
– Beef Fondue for Christmas Eve in Switzerland was a treat, and later we watched my newly downloaded “A Christmas Story,” while building a gingerbread house. The movie I now hear is a tradition in their house!
– For Easter in Malaysia, my wonderful mother sent me a few kilos of chocolate eggs! I decided to cancel my previously planned Easter Egg hunt after the package sat in the equatorial sun for several hours before I arrived home. They were still a treat, and a conversation piece.
Of course, for each holiday I try to incorporate it into my curriculum at work, when possible. Many schools are open to the cultural exchange, but the content should be discussed with your superiors first. Show them the vocabulary, activities, arts and crafts, and its relation to your own culture. Bring in pictures from home and stories from past holidays to make it interesting and personal. The students are always interested in the personal life of their teachers, and this is a great time and place for it!
Warning: Be very cautious with the religious aspect of the holiday. I try to keep this out of the classroom all together. But if the setting is right, and it is approved, it is at your discretion to include it. But please, keep it educational, and not preachy.